Being a woman in a restaurant kitchen is challenging. Being a woman and a head chef is even more difficult. Four of Greenville’s female executive chefs with decades of combined experience give a small glimpse into their lives in the cutthroat restaurant industry.
Jenifer Rogers, executive chef, Passerelle Bistro
Rogers came to Greenville by way of Nashville, Tennessee, and Alabama in July 2017 as sous chef at Soby’s New South Cuisine before taking the exec role at Passerelle.
“I think I’ve been told everything in the book. I think, even, like, last week, I had someone say, ‘I’ve never had a Boss Lady before.’ … And if you’re a halfway nice young lady they’re just going to, like, push you to the side. … Even now, when I say I’m the chef here, people are kind of, like, confused a little bit at first, but you have to just overcome it and work harder than the person beside you.”
Read more — A Woman’s Place: Greenville’s female executive chefs share their stories from the kitchen
Tania Harris, South Carolina Chef Ambassador, pastry chef, The Lazy Goat
Harris completed four years of culinary school in her hometown of Mexico City before moving to the United States. She’s worked in various positions in some of Greenville’s most celebrated kitchens – the former High Cotton, Bacon Bros. Public House, and Restaurant 17. She says that despite her experience, her managerial authority and input are often overlooked.
“I think sometimes, even the problem is not that I’m a woman, but sometimes being here in America is also that I’m a Mexican woman, you know, and that adds to the problem. But then I think, ‘Well, there’s nothing I can do about that.’”
Teryi Youngblood Musolf, culinary director, The Cook’s Station
Musolf, an Upstate lifer, cut her chef’s teeth in the former Bistro Europa, eventually moving to Soby’s on the Side as pastry assistant and then Passerelle Bistro as executive chef before taking her current role. She even at one point staged for two days at Michelin three-star restaurant Alinea in Chicago.
“There were a couple guys that I had on my team that just would not fit, did not want to take direction from a female chef. We had lots of issues with that. There was one that was absolutely cultural, because he told me, ‘In my country, you would be making my coffee.’ So I said, ‘In this country, you can make mine.’”
Karin Feeny, executive chef and co-owner, Kitchen Sync
Originally from Greenville, Feeny spent most of her adult life in the dynamic San Diego restaurant and catering scene – she once catered a dinner party for Pearl Jam, and Eddie Vedder asked for her margarita recipe. Feeny eventually moved back home to open Kitchen Sync with her husband and brother.
“I’m actually trying to have a kinder, more gentler kitchen. [Kitchen staff] is so used to people going, ‘I told you to do it that way … or get out.’”
When she’s not harsh, her authority is often misinterpreted, she says.
“I think that maybe they try to push me a little further or push their agenda a little further. Maybe I seem a little wishy-washy.”